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Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | June 15, 2021 💮

CINDY’S NEWSLETTER
for Gift Shop Managers

Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers delivers practical, ready-to-implement content to gift shop managers, retailers, and volunteers across the country. We help our readership of over 3,000 retailers optimize shop operations, grow revenue, and connect with one another. The newsletter is published monthly and free since 2001.

Have you paid your dues this quarter?

The value and richness of this newsletter comes from your participation. Do your part by submitting two comments per quarter, at minimum. Reply to reader’s questions listed throughout the newsletter (in green) or simply share what is working or isn’t working in your shop, a great selling product, a helpful website or resource, an operating question, your biggest challenge right now, a terrific vendor you’ve come across recently, tips on managing volunteers, or tips on managing yourself!

LEAVE A COMMENT! Click the green comment tags throughout the newsletter, enter it in the comment section, or send to cindy@cindyjonesassociates.com.


JUNE 15, 2021


Providence Park League Gift Shop ramps up for opening!

Providence Park League Gift Shop has been in business since 2008 and is owned and operated by the volunteers of Ascension Providence Hospital (264 beds) in Novi, MI. The shop is about 500 square feet, sits in the main lobby of the hospital and managed by Brenda Deneau. Over the years, it has supported the hospital with over $1 million dollars in donations. Volunteers have been at the center of this business since the beginning.

The shop was shuttered on March 13, 2020 and slowly reopened its doors on a part-time basis in July 2020. For the past year, sales have been minimal as the shop was only open to hospital associates during the pandemic. Volunteers are not yet on campus but they are anxious to return. As the pandemic winds down, people are making doctors appointments that have been put off for a year and that is producing some walk in traffic. According to shop manager, Brenda Deneau, “These folks are shopping!” While outsiders cannot yet come in the shop, they take phone orders and drive ups.

For the past few weeks, they have been ramping things up to get ready for shoppers!

– Created a ‘Patient Shopping Coupon’ to include in hospital room folders.
– Hired two full-time associates (both with great retail acumen).
– Expanded hours to 8am – 8pm and added weekend hours.
– Created a Facebook page called The Gift Shop Associates. Check out the video tour and other terrific product videos.
– Created a QR code for shoppers to access information while in the shop.
– Launched into the gift basket business as well! What started as an idea has now turned into a full-on niche business. Lisa Dunbar, shop coordinator, is now the master of curated gift baskets for the shop.

Special thanks to Brenda Deneau for contributing the content for this story!


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Creating an Online Store | Part 3: Design, content, images, policies

by Nicole Stanbridge / Cindy Jones Assoc / June 15, 2021

This is the third of our four-part series on setting up and launching and online store for your gift shop. In Part 1: Value, Considerations, Consumer Demand of the series we looked at online consumer behavior, current demand, pre-launch planning, as well as the pros and cons of an online store. Part 2: Costs, Getting Started, Integrations examined startup and operating costs, technical requirements, selecting an eCommerce platform, and system integrations. Here, in Part 3: Design, Content, Images, Policies we’ll look at designing and setting up the online store’s navigation (menus), product images, as well as policies for delivery, shipping, returns, and exchanges. Part 4 will explore options for shops that don’t have the time, resources or staff to launch an online shop.

We interviewed four shops with successful online stores for this article. We encourage you to visit them! 

Stanford Health Care Gift Shop
Stanford Hospital, Stanford, CA
Shellee Laubersheimer, Operations Manager
Mamta Kaur, Manager, Retail Program
Website: shcgiftshop.com
Hospital referring page
eCommerce: BigCommerce / POS: Vend

Heart Strings Gift Shop
Princeton Community Hospital, Princeton, WV
Lauren Crews, Manager and Owner
Website: shopheartstrings.com
eCommerce: Shopify / POS: Square

St. Luke’s Floral & Gifts
UnityPoint Health St Luke’s Hospital, Cedar Rapids, IA
Noelle Boardman, Gift Shop Coordinator
Website:  unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/gift-shop-home.aspx
Hospital referring page
eCommerce: Hospital’s software / POS: Counterpoint

Sprout Gift Co.
Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, Saskatoon, Canada
Shauna Morgan, Gift Shop Manager
Website: sproutgiftco.ca
eCommerce: WooCommerce / POS: Square

A sincere thank you to all the managers we interviewed!

Other notable online shops:

White Rose Gift Shop, Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital (powered by Shopify)
Cedars-Sinai Helping Hand Gift Shop (powered by Shopify)
Strong Memorial Hospital Gift Shop (powered by NitroSell)
Wild Rose Gift Shop, Univ of Iowa Hospitals (powered by Magento)
Scarlet Ribbon Gift Shop, Ohio State Univ Hospitals
Methodist Hospital Gift Shop  (powered by Shopify)
Mercy Gift Shop, Ascension Via Christi Hospital (powered by Wix)

Branding and design

We’ve learned how an online store essentially adds another shop entrance to your business, albeit digital. It goes without saying that your website needs to look professional. Make no mistake, an amateur-looking website will drive away customers. Esthetics, layout, grammar, colors, and images all matter. Luckily, anyone can create a professional site using of templates provided by your eCommerce platform or if budget allows, hire a web designer. Do not use low-quality, amateur photos. Avoid graphics all together unless you feel confident selecting well-designed, brand related ones. You can find free professional-grade photos on Vecteezy, Pexel, Freepik and Stocksy. Use the search function and filter for “Free License”.

During setup, you’ll be prompted to set the website colors, logo and possibly fonts. The simplest route is to follow your hospital’s branding. Their name and brand recognition is already established. Build on this. Visitors should move between your webstore and the hospital webpage with a sense of familiarity and continuity. Contact the marketing department for help with these elements.

In some cases, you may decide to create a unique brand for your online store. We generally don’t recommend this path for marketing reasons, but one of the most successful shops we found is independently branded. Sprout Gift Shop is an outstanding shop and has its own brand with distinct colors, logo and design. In contrast, Stanford Gift Shop adopted the university branding, but still presents a perfectly nice page. Clearly there is no single path to success, though one will require more work.

www.sproutgiftco.ca

www.shcgiftshop.com

Navigation and menus

Navigation and menus for online webstores have two primary goals:  1) help customers find products; and 2) help customers discover products they didn’t know they wanted (e.g., add-ons, upsell). There are other purposes, such as providing policy and store info, but driving sales is primary. Follow a few simple rules for your site’s navigation:

  • Match top-level menus to your shop categories/departments
  • Model the navigation menus used by other shops in this article
  • Don’t get catchy when labeling menus. Use common terminology.
  • Keep menu labels short (e.g., use “Contact” instead of “Phone Number, Email, Hours”)

Utilize shop staff, friends, and family to test your site navigation. Lauren Crews from Heart Strings Gift Shop needed to restructure her site’s navigation after learning that shoppers were having trouble locating items. She conducted an informal survey asking family and friends, of all ages and technical know-how, to test her site. She also placed herself in the shopper’s shoes and role-played different search and browse scenarios. In addition to good site navigation, your webstore should have a robust “Search” function, backed by detailed product descriptions to power the search.

Your online store should contain the following pages, at minimum:

Shop   |   About   |   Contact   |   Shipping & Delivery   |   Returns   |   FAQ

Here are a few examples of good top-level site navigation:

Main menu
Footer menu


Product images

Poor quality images can drive away sales just the same as cluttered shelves, dusty merchandise, or disorganized displays. Luckily, you can take great website-worthy images using your smartphone. Recruit a photo-savvy staff or volunteer to help or request merchandise images from the vendor. Among the shop managers interviewed, most either photographed merchandise themselves or pulled images from vendor websites and catalogs.

Lauren Crews, Heart Strings Gift Shop, uses asks vendors for their catalog images in a .zip file, but noted that these images aren’t always relatable or realistic. She prefers lifestyle images (any image depicting people in a life-related activity) because shoppers can relate to them. Lauren also suggested showing the store in the background to convey the product message being “in store now”.

🎯 TIP   Asks medical staff to model items and include a short bio. This is highly relatable to your customers. Or, have your shop volunteers and staff model.

Noelle Boardman from St Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapid photographs merchandise with her cell phone or pulls them from the vendor. She learned how to take professional photos and create a DIY photo box by watching YouTube videos. Her tips were to place lighting directly behind the camera to avoid shadows and, also, make sure all images are the same size for uniformity. We’ll show you how to take product photos using a smartphone below.

To edit your photos, managers Shellee Laubersheimer and Mamta Kaur at Stanford University Hospital Gift Shop highly recommended Canva. They find Canva to be essential. It is easy and intuitive, has lots of plug-n-play uses, and great for removing photo backgrounds. Canva makes it easy to edit photos, add your logo or other graphics to images, design flyers, create social media posts, and develop a brand profile. We recommend adding it to your box of tools, as well. Their tips were to use colored backdrops for white or light items, invest in a $50 photo box, and to recognize that quality photos will set your store’s credibility.

Here are some great merchandise photos, even for difficult to photograph items like scarves and books.

How do you photograph sundries? Remove the background using Canva or photograph them in a lightbox. Here are sites with good examples:  Personal Care Products    Patient Necessities / Sundries   Men’s Toiletries Kit  

How to photograph merchandise with a smartphone

Always shoot in HDR and the flash turned off. Turn “Live” mode off on iPhones. Set size to Portrait mode (or Square) and telephoto lens on newer iPhones. Don’t place item too far away. Fill the frame with your subject and balance content.

Exposure and Focus. Learn how to set exposure and focus. Tap the screen lightly and an exposure indicator will appear. Tap different areas of the screen to see how exposure adjusts. Experiment to find the best exposure. To tell the camera where to focus, hold finger on screen a few seconds until “AE/AF Lock” appears. Freeze focus on the item and background will blur. Experiment by placing an item directly in front of you and locking focus.

Alignment. Always shoot items straight on. Kneel or position the phone on same level or plane as the item. Don’t tilt, tip or angle phone. Hold it perfectly horizontal. Align the grid lines (under Settings > Camera) on the screen to any horizontal or vertical lines in your shot.

Lighting. Purchase a photo studio box ($20-60) or make your own. Turn off all other lights when using a photo box to reduce shadows. If you don’t have a studio box, shoot a bright area with natural light, like an atrium. Avoid florescent lighting and background light sources like windows or light bulbs. Time the shoot when light is even and natural. Avoid hard direct sunlight, shadows, or bright washed-out areas, adjusting exposure as needed.

Photo Editing. In addition to a web-based editor like Canva, you can also edit photos directly on your phone with the apps Snapseed (free) or Touch Retouch ($2.99). Both are simple and full of functionality.

Shooting items in shop. Shoot items in the shop using Portrait mode. This automatically blurs the background making the focused subject matter have the appearance of more depth. Tap the Focus icon in the upper right corner and use the slider to adjust the amount of background blur. After you shoot, use the slider in Edit.

🎯 TIP  Keep your store’s homepage updated with seasonal merchandise. But, be sure customers can find non-holiday merchandise quickly using your robust search function and site navigation. Stanford University Gift Shop does a terrific job rotating product on the homepage to match upcoming holidays.

Payroll Deduction (click to view)

Shopping cart, check out, payment

The check-out process should be a quick, user-friendly experience to reduce cart abandonment and avoid problems. Be sure users can easily add products to their cart and include all the information they need. Include as much detail as possible, up front. If same-day delivery has a 2:00pm deadline, show it at every step possible. Include delivery and shipping policies in the check-out screen plus a link to the policy page on your site.

A good eCommerce software will come with a wide array of payment methods (e.g., Shopify includes PayPal, major credit cards, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Stripe). You’ll also want to accommodate payroll deduction, if possible. This will likely require a customization by your eCommerce software, in coordination with your institution. We’ll explore payroll deduction this and other challenges in the last part of this article.

Delivery, shipping, returns, exchanges

Determine what fulfillment methods you can reasonably and successfully offer. Following the mantra that options drive sales, the more the better: delivery in lobby, delivery in office, delivery in patient room, in-store pickup, curbside pickup, store-front pickup, shipping.

If you face staff or time constraints, take a phased approach with your fulfillment option. Start with a few of the easiest ones like in store pickup, lobby pickup, and curbside pickup. Once these have been in place for a few month, you’ve worked out the kinks and have a nice process, add addition options like patient rooms or offices and workstation delivery. Next offer shipping. It has the largest reach, but also requires the most resources and time. You may also find it’s just not feasible.

Promote all your fulfillment options on the homepage, across social media, in ads, flyers, and other marketing avenues.

State deadlines and requirements for fulfillment options clearly, along with other online policies like returns and exchanges. Here are several examples to take from: Sprout Gift Co FAQ; White Rose Gift Shop Shipping/Delivery, Stanford Gift Shop FAQ, Ohio State Univ Gift Shop Shipping/Returns, Cedars-Sinai FAQ

Use bold text, popups and repetition on any restrictions to avoid any confusion such as, “Flowers are not permitted in ICU, CCU or the NICU patient rooms.” Set the phone number field as required on all orders so you can contact the customer if there are any problems.

Remember that hospital gift shops have one major advantage over Amazon and other online retailers: easy returns and exchanges. It’s a pain to package, label, and drive to the post office. In your case, staff don’t even need to leave the building for returns. Use this to your advantage and make it a selling point. Promote these and other conveniences across social media, email, and other marketing communications.

Don’t reinvent the wheel!

Launching an online store is no small task, but it is doable especially when you don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Visit, study, and copy the shops mentioned in this article. What webpages do they include? What content is on their homepage? Who has the best navigation? What software are they using? If you’re unsure what to include in your Return Policy, pull text from other shops and edit accordingly. Bookmark two or three favorite shops as models and consistently refer back to them when making determinations for your own site.  

Next month, Part 4 will address common challenges, obstacles, and explore outsourcing alternatives when an online shop is impractical due to staffing, time constraints or resources.

NEXT ARTICLE

Creating an Online Store | Part 4: Outsourcing, alternatives and common challenges

Do you have an online store? What has been your experience?

Do you have questions about the online store topics discussed here this month? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Thank you!

Tips for attending AmericasMart Atlanta Market

“If you have a trusted business partner, divide and conquer. The market is huge, and you’ll need a detailed plan of action to accomplish your goals. Also, download the market app on your phone to make it easier.” 

“Bring a trusted friend or co-worker. Your first trip to AmericasMart can be overwhelming. Your buying partner can help with notes, lists, etc.”

“Book early. The cheapest and the best deals are through the AmericasMart site onPeak https://www.americasmart.com/travel/hotel-reservations. Never stay south toward the airport or at the airport and plan to take the MARTA. It’s not safe unless you are always in a large group. Find your rep in each showroom. Using them doesn’t cost you more. They can also tell you what sells best in your area and who else close by may have that product.”

“Avoid driving in Atlanta if possible. The shuttle service to and from the Mart is a great perk as well. Uber costs less than a taxi. It’s important to book way ahead for the best rates.”

“Plan your lunch early or late due to the long lines. Keep water and snacks with you. Eating dinner is a challenge due to long waits, so eat early rather than later. The shuttle buses are amazing but watch their operating times.”

“However long you think you want to be at AmericasMart, add on one day or even two. You’ll be happy you did once you return back to your store.”

“Have a focus and a plan. Save one day to source new products and vendors. Download the Mart App to your phone. Pack a couple of snacks.”

“Pre-shop showrooms prior to placing orders. It’s the key to building complete statements between multiple vendors. Preselecting what you want also makes it much easier for both you and your sales rep when you return to place your order.”

“Have a rolling bag to put catalogs, handouts, and a bottle of water in. Wear comfortable clothes and sneakers. This is not a fashion show; it is a test of endurance.”

SOURCE: SmartRetailer

   

 

 

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Q. Do you have an in-house floral shop?

We have an in-house floral design shop that is operated and staffed by volunteers. It is something that we love and are proud of! We are wondering how many other hospitals have an in house, on campus flower shop, and if so, what is their greatest success? We are interested in growing our operation. – Michaela Kanoski, CHI Health CUMC Bergan Mercy Hospital, Omaha, NE. 400 beds. 6/17/21

Do you have an in-house floral shop and what is successful?

We need to hear from you! Don’t just take; give back. Do your part and leave a comment here or enter it at the bottom of the newsletter.

Thank you!

Featured: Twig Gift Shop

Rochester General Hospital, Rochester, NY Twig Gift Shop

Linda Leary and Anne Trocano, Twig Gift Shop, Rochester General Hospital, Rochester, NY

Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, NY (528 beds) closed the Twig Gift Shop for 14 months during the pandemic. In May, they reopened and celebrated its brand new location inside the hospital’s latest addition, the Sands-Constellation Center for Critical Care.

Next year, the shop will celebrate its 75th year of providing retail therapy in the hospital! Since its opening in 1947, the gift shop has been run by volunteers of the Rochester General Hospital Association. In those early years, they sold items hand-made by the volunteers. Now, they offer flowers, cards, jewelry, accessories, toys, apparel, gifts, and locally made candy.

Along with the shop’s only employee, Buyer and Manager, Linda Leary, the Rochester General Hospital Association is using the shop to serve patients, families, visitors, and staff while raising money to support projects that improve the patient experience. Currently, proceeds are supporting the new Twig Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that opened in October 2020.


Job Openings

Gift Shop Manager
Beaumont Health, Troy, MI

Manager, Gift Shop & Patient Services
Ardent Health Services, Amarillo, TX

Volunteer & Gift Shop Manager 
AdventHealth, Palm Coast, FL

Hospitality Retail Manager
Mount Washington Hotel, Bretton Woods, NH

Supervisor Retail Services – Gift Shop 
Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Pontiac, MI

Gift Shop Coordinator
Prisma Health  Columbia, SC

Manager, Gift Shop
Sarasota Health Care System, Sarasota, FL

Museum Gift Shop Manager
Jekyll Island Museum, Jekyll Island, GA

Manager/Buyer, Gift Shop
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Volunteer Services/Gift Shop Coordinator 
Good Samaritan Hospital, Vincennes, IN


Q. What is your protocol for reinstating volunteers?

Our gift shop is currently closed and will be opening in August. What is the protocol after COVID-19 to follow for reinstating the volunteers? Do they have to show their vaccine card? What other steps are necessary? – John Klos, Gift Shop Manager, Volunteer Services. Saint Francis Health System, Tulsa OK. 6/12/21

What is the protocol after COVID-19 to follow for reinstating the volunteers?

Are your volunteers required to show a vaccine card? Leave your reply here or enter it at the bottom of the newsletter.

Thank you!

💮 CALENDAR 💮

GIFT MARKETS

Updated Jun 15. **Always double-check show dates for changes.Aug 7–10, 2021
International Home + Housewares Show, Chicago, IL
Aug 8-11, 2021
NY NOW Market (Summer) Jacob Javits Center, NY
RESCHEDULED for
Aug 22-26, 2021
Las Vegas Market (Summer)
Jul 25-29, 2021
Aug 24-27, 2021
Dallas Apparel & Accessories Market (Summer)
Sep 22-24, 2021
Dallas Total Home & Gift Market
Oct 5-6, 2021
Seattle Mart Fall Buying Event
Oct 13-15, 2021
October Atlanta Apparel Market
Oct 26-28, 2021
Atlanta Fall Cash & Carry
Oct 26-29, 2021
Dallas Apparel & Accessories Market
Nov 1-3, 2021
Ocean City Resort Gift Expo, Ocean City, MD
Dec 5-8, 2021
Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show, Myrtle Beach, SC
Visit Gift Shop Mag Trade Show Calendar or Smart Retailer TradeShow Calendar for smaller local/regional shows.

STATE AUXILIARY CONFERENCES

Oct 4-6, 2021 Council of Volunteer Services of Georgia Hospital Association (COVS-Georgia) Annual Meeting Macon, GA

Cancelled Texas Association, Directors of Volunteer Services (TADVS)


Customer Satisfaction Survey

In case you missed it!

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Last month’s issue had a free template of a Customer Satisfaction Survey. Download for free here.


Q. Scrub hat vendor?

Q. I am trying to find a vendor that sells scrub hats. Can you please ask the other gift shop managers in your next newsletter. Thank you! – Debbie Collins, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI 4/19/21

We get them from Outside the Box (aka Badge A-Peel). They have scrub caps and bouffant caps. They also sell really cute badge reels. – Lori Johndrow, 5/17/21

Sparkling Earth. Staff love the options, fit and fabric design choices. – Lori C Campbell, 5/19/21

Outside the Box has cute scrub hats and bouffant hats. They have buttons on the side for mask ear straps to attach, also. They have Velcro badge holders with interchangeable buttons and acrylic figures. – Ginger McGraw, 5/17/21

 

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MAY 2021 NEWSLETTER: ISSUE #617
Check out last month’s articles, surveys, and discussions.

  • PART 2. Creating an online store
  • Startup and operating costs
  • Getting started
  • Selecting an eCommerce platform
  • POS and other integrations
  • Research, plan, and then execute
  • Example online shops
  • More shops reopening!

  • Tote Sale
  • Red-carpet welcome for volunteers at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital
  • Free Template: Customer Satisfaction Survey
  • Q. Scrub hat vendor?
  • Online Store: Discussion
  • Calendar: Gift Markets and Regional Conferences
  • Calendar: Gift Markets and Regional Conferences

DISCUSSION


PLANT VENDOR

Is there a wholesale plant vendor you use to stock your gift shop? – Jamie Lee Hernandez, St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings, MT, 5/19/21

What wholesale plant vendor do you recommend?

Click the comment bubble or scroll to to the bottom and enter it there.

Thanks!

ONLINE STORE

First of all, thank you for deep diving into this subject. I wanted to know if having a POS is imperative to having an online presence? Is there a work around? Currently we do not have a POS, but we would love to explore the online possibility. Thank you. – Jamie Lee Hernandez, 5/20/21

A POS is not required to have an online store. You can sell, process payment, and fulfill orders entirely through your eCommerce software. You’ll need to coordinate your in-store with online sales, plus financials, and inventory. – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

Cindy, this is absolutely the best newsletter that you have published. I will use as a reference over and over. We too realized that we were fortunate to have an online shop. We continue to update it as part of our hospital website. The big website will be new and fresher soon. We have been waiting a long time for this. Our on line business continues to grow even as we have opened our gift shop. We will send in our good news for you to publish. Have a great weekend – Kathryn, Carousel Gift Shop, Driscoll Childrens Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX. 191 bed. 4/19/21

Congratulations on launching your online shop. It is terrific. The landing page image with the teddy bear is really effective. Did you set up and launch it yourself? What software are you using? Several managers are wondering how to coordinate online with in-shop inventory. Are you having the same issue? – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

Our gift shop is part of the hospital website. We are continuing to upgrade our part, as well as, the hospital having a new site. We do struggle with the inventory—as we are on Arba systems. We continue to keep up with inventory the old fashioned way, counting each week. We do keep the inventory separate from the shop back stock. Hope this part helps. – Kathryn, Carousel Gift Shop, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX. 191 bed. 4/19/21

We do not have a web site but will be building one this summer. My question is, I do not want to offer delivery beyond our campus (no shipping). Anyone had success doing this? – Kevin Shaw, Methodist Hospital Gift Shop, St Louis Park, MN. 4/16/21

Yes! Our sole purpose of an online store is for Patient Delivery Only and our opening welcome message on the site reads: Through this site, you may order gifts for delivery to patients staying at our hospitals”. We advertise “pre made bundles” to simplify options. We have a binder kept at the register that lists all of our online gift bundles and what items are needed to fulfill the order so that all staff members can work on gift building. We recently added phone chargers as an option online as we get a lot of phone calls from customers looking to send a charger to a patient. Well now they can order that charger online as an “add-on” item!
For inventory purposes, we ring up each item at the point of sale and use “eHit” as our mode of tender; it’s an arbitrary tender that has its own line on our reports so that these sales are not getting mixed into credit card or cash sales. – Meggen Heuss, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI. 500 bed. 4/21/21

We do not yet have an online store however, this information is quite timely in that I am just beginning to explore one. I look forward to the next parts of the series as I am sure there are so many parts and pieces to consider. Without question, I believe it would be worth it, but getting it up and running and having manpower to keeping it going may prove to be more difficult. The shipping pieces is something that really worries me… Thank you all for your time to compile this information, it is appreciated. – Jamie Lee Hernandez 4/16/21

Remember, you don’t have to offer shipping. You can limit your fulfillment options to only those you feel are feasible: Patient Room Delivery, Office Delivery, In Store Pickup and, Lobby Pickup, Curbside Pickup. Phase in additional options, like shipping, later on when ready or not at all. We’ll discuss fulfillment methods in Part III. – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

I am so interested to hear what others are doing, the pro’s and the con’s to having an online store. Who are you targeting? What merchandise will you sell? Where will the merchandise be stored? Delivery, mail out, curbside pick up etc. Who will manage it? Who will manage it when you are on vacation, nights and weekends etc. – Jamie Lee Hernandez 3/18/21

I’m not 100% sure so maybe Cindy could help us, but someone told me that if you are not for profit that you have to be very careful with online shopping because it could forfeit your nonprofit status. Cindy, can you help? Is this true? – Ali McCrary, Good Samaritan, Vincennes, IN. 232 beds. 2/16/21

FROM CINDY
It is a myth that 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations can‘t make a profit. Most hospitals and their subsequent gift shops are for profit. They charge sales tax and operate as a business. The shops then donate all their profits to the hospital for patient benefit and equipment. Look for our upcoming article on how to start an online store. We’ve found some terrific online gift shops and currently interviewing their managers to share with our readers. In the meantime, here is a helpful article on launching an on-line store Overcome Common Problems Launching a Hospital Gift Store Website  2/17/21

We are a volunteer only hospital gift shop. No visitors in almost a year. We we closed for 7 months and now are only open in the afternoons. We’ve been having a 30% off sale and the store is still full! An online shop would be great but it would fall on one person to create it and manage and would be a full time job.  – Martha Burke, Rome Hospital, Rome, NY. 130 beds. 2/9/21


CUSTOMER REWARD/LOYALTY PROGRAM

We are interested in starting a customer reward/loyalty program. Requesting any advice on a system that has worked well in your hospital gift shop. – Stephanie Byrom, SJRMC Gift Market, Farmington, NM 194 beds. 5/17/12

Do you have a customer reward or loyalty program?

On behalf of all the readers and fellow gift shop managers across the country, thanks for commenting!

Merci!

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My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


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Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | May 15, 2021 💮

CINDY’S NEWSLETTER
for Gift Shop Managers

Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers delivers practical, ready-to-implement content to gift shop managers, retailers, and volunteers across the country. We help our readership of over 3,000 retailers optimize shop operations, grow revenue, and connect with one another. The newsletter is published monthly and free since 2001.

Have you paid your dues this quarter?

The value and richness of this newsletter comes from your participation. Do your part by submitting two comments per quarter, at minimum. Reply to reader’s questions listed throughout the newsletter (in green) or simply share what is working or isn’t working in your shop, a great selling product, a helpful website or resource, an operating question, your biggest challenge right now, a terrific vendor you’ve come across recently, tips on managing volunteers, or tips on managing yourself!

LEAVE A COMMENT! Click the green comment tags throughout the newsletter, enter it in the comment section, or send to cindy@cindyjonesassociates.com.


MAY 15, 2021


In the April issue we discussed how you, as shop managers, sometimes feel isolated within your hospital environment because most hospital employees are not ‘retail savvy’ and cannot help you with your questions or advice. But, just remember how very important you are to your hospital!

  • You know more people by name than do most hospital employees.
  • You are there morning, noon and night seven days a week, guiding, assisting and helping people.
  • You help make hospital employees feel connected because the shop is often the ‘common ground’ where they can meet and visit with each another.
  • You probably answer more questions than in most other areas of your hospital.
  • And, when it comes to compassion, you are key to making patients and families feel they have had a good experience.
  • Most of all, you are the human side of compassion and making a difference. While you may not know all the patients, visitors and medical staff, you are right there along with them in your hospital.

Never feel that you are not as ‘important’ as any other employee in the hospital. You have a great opportunity to have a positive influence on 3 to 1,000+ people every day! What an opportunity!

– Cindy Jones, Editor


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Creating an Online Store | Part 2: Costs, getting started, integrations

by Nicole Stanbridge / Cindy Jones Assoc / May 15, 2021

This is the second of our four-part series on setting up and launching and online store for your gift shop. In Part 1 of the series we looked at online consumer behavior, current demand, pre-launch planning, as well as the pros and cons of an online store. Here, in Part 2, we we’ll discuss startup and operating costs, technical requirements, selecting an eCommerce platform, and system integrations. Part 3 will look at setting up the website, navigation (menus), product images, and online shop policies. Part 4 will explore options for shops that don’t have the time, resources or staff to launch an online shop.

Exemplary online stores
We interviewed four shops with successful online stores for this article. We encourage you to visit them! 

Stanford Health Care Gift Shop
Stanford Hospital, Stanford, CA
Shellee Laubersheimer, Operations Manager
Mamta Kaur, Manager, Retail Program
Website: shcgiftshop.com
Hospital referring page
eCommerce: BigCommerce / POS: Vend

Heart Strings Gift Shop
Princeton Community Hospital, Princeton, WV
Lauren Crews, Manager and Owner
Website: shopheartstrings.com
eCommerce: Shopify / POS: Square

St. Luke’s Floral & Gifts
UnityPoint Health St Luke’s Hospital, Cedar Rapids, IA
Noelle Boardman, Gift Shop Coordinator
Website:  unitypoint.org/cedarrapids/gift-shop-home.aspx
Hospital referring page
eCommerce: Hospital’s software / POS: Counterpoint

Sprout Gift Co.
Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, Saskatoon, Canada
Shauna Morgan, Gift Shop Manager
Website: sproutgiftco.ca
eCommerce: WooCommerce / POS: Square

A sincere thank you to all the managers we interviewed!

Other notable online shops:

White Rose Gift Shop, Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital (powered by Shopify)
Cedars-Sinai Helping Hand Gift Shop (powered by Shopify)
Strong Memorial Hospital Gift Shop (powered by NitroSell)
Wild Rose Gift Shop, Univ of Iowa Hospitals (powered by Magento)
Scarlet Ribbon Gift Shop, Ohio State Univ Hospitals
Methodist Hospital Gift Shop  (powered by Shopify)
Mercy Gift Shop, Ascension Via Christi Hospital (powered by Wix)

Startup and operating costs

Startup and ongoing operating costs for an online store can vary depending on existing infrastructure and the extent of services offered (e.g., shipping and supplies). Typical costs include eCommerce software fees, domain fees, webhosting fees, templates (optional), and web developer fees (optional). Costs for photo supplies can include lightbox, backdrop, lighting, steamer, and edit/design tool (e.g., Canva). If you decide to offer shipping, allow for expenses like postage, postage software, printed inserts, equipment, labels, packing materials, and shipping boxes.

“The startup costs for the Sprout Gift Shop website were fairly limited. Outside of having the website designed by a third party, the only additional costs associated were staff time, WooCommerce, and Shopventory. These depend very much on the size of the gift shop and the options that the organization wants. The website design fee was integrated into other regular maintenance fees with our website developer, Island Collective,” said Shauna Morgan, Shop Manager at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, Canada.

The largest ongoing expense is typically eCommerce software fees (or shipping expenses, if offered). Among the shops interviewed, eCommerce monthly fees ranged from $60 to $300, not including credit card processing fees (2% – 3% per transaction). Most software providers offer a discount for annual vs monthly payment. Beware, some have steep setup fees.

Mercy Hospital Gift Shop, Manhattan, KS

Mercy Hospital Gift Shop, Manhattan, KS

Hire a web designer to setup your site only if you have the budget. The average cost is around $3,000-$8,000. Our starting rate for a Shopify eCommerce Website setup and design at Cindy Jones Associates is $3,500. Contact us to learn more. Otherwise, it is not necessary to hire one thanks to today’s user-friendly platforms. Only one of the shops we interviewed hired a designer. The rest were self taught. 

Below are some of the typical startup and ongoing expenses for an online store. You may not incur all of them. For example, you opt to bundle the domain and hosting with your eCommerce provider or don’t offer shipping. Thank you to Stanford University Hospital Gift Shop for contributing content to help construct this budget! 

Infrastructure
Domain name: $8-20 (annual)
Web hosting: $80-300 (monthly)
eCommerce setup: $500-1500 (once)
eCommerce software: $29-300 (once)
Website template/theme: $60-300 (once)
Add-ons/extensions $50-300 (once)
Payment processing 2–3% /transaction

Photo Supplies
Lightbox: $50-150 (once)
Backdrop/lighting: $100-150 (once)
Steamer: $100-250 (once)
Mannequins/Head Busts: $300-500 (once)
Canva.com membership: $125 (annual)

Shipping
Postage software: (annual)
Postage equipment: $500 (once)
Prepaid postage: $100-500 (recurring)
Shipping labels $20-50 (recurring)
Packing materials: $200-700 (recurring)
Shipping boxes: $300-500 (recurring)
Gift wrap boxes/ribbon: $300-500 (recurring)

**Costs vary depending on shop size and services. eCommerce setup, template/theme, and add-ons/extension fees are less common costs. Packing materials include bubblewrap, tissue paper, tape, tap dispenser. eCommerce setup includes training and technical support. You may not need this.

Getting Started
What do you need to create an online store? There are three components required to launch:

  1. eCommerce software for creating the store’s website.
  2. Web host provider who will ‘host’ the website files (on a physical server somewhere).
  3. Domain name (i.e., URL, weblink) for the online store. This can be a subdomain of the hospital or a separate custom domain. Stanford’s online shop uses a custom domain: shcgiftshop.com. In contrast, Strong Memorial uses www.stronggiftshop.urmc.edu, a subdomain of urmc.edu.

These services can be obtained from three separate providers, a single provider, or a hybrid configuration utilizing your organization’s existing providers, when available. We recommend sourcing as many services as possible from a single provider, though. It will be easier to manage, consolidates billing, and requires the least technical know-how. Shopify offers bundled software, hosting, and domain for $29/mo (Basic plan).

  • Top eCommerce platform providers include: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, 3dcart.
  • Common domain registrars (providers) include: Domain.com, GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, Namecheap.
  • Some of the best web host providers include: Bluehost, HostGator, DreamHost, A2Hosting, Hostinger.

Before deciding, see if your organization has established these providers already and also ask about any requirements. The hospital may have a webhost already, or require a HIPAA-compliant webhost provider, or prohibit custom domains. Noelle Boardman, Shop Manager at UnityPoint St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, learned that her hospital already had an eCommerce platform and local web developer available for the gift shop’s use. Also check with the maternity department. Most of them sell products online for mothers and newborns. You may be able to use the same eCommerce platform.

Otherwise, try to select a provider that bundle software, hosting and domain together. Ask your IT, communications and marketing departments for recommendations, along with friends, family, colleagues. Don’t go it alone. Use the resources and expertise available to you when selecting the required services.

Selecting an eCommerce platform

Selecting an eCommerce software to run your online store is one of the most important decisions in the entire process. As with any business decision, you need to do your research first. There are a lot of options, some better than others. The first step is to outline your requirements. Sit down and shop the example stores interviewed for this article. Write down the features and components you want. Don’t worry if you miss some. Right now, it’s about becoming familiar and discovery.

Consider creating a free 14-day trial with Shopify to become familiar with the setup process, identify requirements, and determine if you want to go at it alone or get help. Use the free trail as a learning tool. Then keep the account or close it, no credit card required.

It’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions at this stage, such as:What shopping cart and check out functions do you need?

  1. Does it have to integrate with your POS? If so, does it natively or require a fee?
  2. Will you hire a designer or use the templates provided to build your store’s website?
  3. Do you need a domain bundled with the eCommerce software?
  4. How big is your customer base? Some platforms charge by sales volume.
  5. Do you need shipping functionality?
  6. What payment methods do you want (credit card, Apple Pay, Paypal, payroll deduction, etc.)?

A good eCommerce platform has an intuitive interface, requires minimal technical knowledge, and includes robust online support documents and forum. A good platform will walk you through the entire setup, in plain speak, step-by-step fashion. Most come with templates for designing your webpages, including layout, components, and navigation. You’ll also find template language for check-out pages, refund, return, and other shop policies. (More about  policies for online stores in Part 3.)

Sprout Gift Co, Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital

Sprout Gift Co, Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital

Start thinking now about how, or if, the eCommerce software will integrate with your POS. Most of the managers we interviewed touched on this. Managers Shellee Laubersheimer and Mamta Kaur at Stanford Hospital Gift Shop said their eCommerce “options were limited because it needed to integrate with Vend POS. That was the priority and BigCommerce had best integration.” They also did a trial account with BigCommerce first, which helped. We’ll discuss system integrations, at length, next.

We use Shopify for the online store at Cindy Jones Associates. It is reasonably priced, user-friendly setup, designed for the non-techy, well supported, includes domain and hosting. Other popular eCommerce platforms include Square Online by Square (also known as SquareUp), Shopify, Weebly, Wix eCommerce, NitroSell, Magento Commerce, Squarespace, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce (requires WordPress). Explore the software used by the online shops in this article in Part 1. Additionally, there are good comparisons here in the 8 Best Ecommerce Platforms and eCommerce Platform Comparison – Which Will Be Best for You?

POS and other integrations

System integrations can save considerable time, prevent errors, enhance services, and increase customer satisfaction, while inherently optimizing operations. How the shop’s software and systems integrate, or talk to one another, can have a significant impact on shop efficiency. Here’s an example. Both in-store sales and online store sales will now pull from the same inventory. Your POS and online store should, optimally, sync these transactions. This was one of the most common challenges among the managers we interviewed for this article.

Stanford University Gift Shop

Stanford University Gift Shop

Stanford Hospital Gift Shop’s eCommerce platform, BigCommerce, integrates with their POS (Vend) and “serves as the source of truth for all things inventory related,” said manager Shellee Laubersheimer. In contrast, St Luke’s Cedar Rapids Hospital manually records online orders in their POS (Counterpoint). Shop manager Noelle Boardman said their lack of integration is the hardest part. “Availability is indicated online for shoppers, but items can sometimes sell out in the store. When this happens, staff notifies the manager who marks it ‘out of stock’ in the webstore. But staff don’t always notify the manager so the website doesn’t get updated.”

A good rule of thumb is to always integrate new systems upfront, on launch, whenever possible. Aim to select an eCommerce platform that is the most compatible with your POS and other systems. It will be easier and less expensive now versus retrofitting incompatible systems down the road. Sprout Gift Shop in Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital has their POS connected to both the online store with WooCommerce and Shopventory. “If an item is sold in-store or on the website, inventory is adjusted accordingly,” said Shauna Morgan, shop manager.

When researching an eCommerce software ask 1) does it integrate out-of-the-box with my system(s); and 2) how easily. BigCommerce integrates natively with Square POS, Vend, Springboard, Shopkeep, Hike and Clover. But, to our knowledge, Square and Shopify do not offer native integrations because they sell their own POS. If they don’t integrate, get a quote for the work. Negotiate fees or explore other platforms.

Note, you might hear the term API when researching integrations. This is simply the intermediary software that allows two applications to talk to each other. Enlist your IT department to help with integrations.

Don’t forget to ask your POS provider what eCommerce software they recommend for ease of integration. For example, Vend offers native integration with BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce. In addition, many POS companies offer their own eCommerce component so integration is done. For example, Square Online can be easily added on to Square POS. It includes software, hosting and domain for $12/mo (Professional plan). Lightspeed offers Lightspeed eCom bundled with their POS. Be sure to check hardware compatibility first.

Finally, if you are already planning to upgrade your POS, consider providers like Square and Shopify that offer single-source bundled POS, online store, social media services, inventory platform, and more. There are always pros and cons, but bundled services are typically advantageous if time, resources, or technical know-how are limited.

Research, plan, and then execute

In closing, take the time now to evaluate costs, explore technical requirements, determine your store’s ‘must haves’, research eCommerce software, and make a plan. This stage is about learning, prepping, and planning.

When asked for the most important piece of advice to give others, Noelle Boardman at St Luke’s Hospital at Cedar Rapids said, “When you first start, you need to be all in and on board. Allocate the time required up front. Be willing to learn, dig in, and put in the time upfront.”

At Stanford University Gift Shop, getting started “was an ongoing plan, partnering with IT and the shop, over 18 months. IT researched eCommerce options and guided us on technical and security requirements. They also lead communications with their eCommerce provider (BigCommerce) when problems arise,” said manager Shellee Laubersheimer.

Next, in Part 3 of this series, we will dive into setup, branding, site design, layout, product images, delivery, shipping and policy requirements for an online store. Following this, Part 4 will address common challenges or obstacles, and explore outsourced alternatives when an online shop is impractical due to staffing, time constraints or resources.

NEXT ARTICLE

Creating an Online Store | Part 3: Design, content, product images, policies

Do you have a question about the online store topics discussed here this month? Let us know!

Do you have questions about the online store topics discussed here this month? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them!

Thank you!

Shops reopening

Mayo Clinic Health System, Mankato, MN

Mayo Clinic, Mankato, MN

At this time last year, we like so many others closed our doors until September. We are almost back to an 9am to 4pm schedule, Monday thru Friday, which is very gratifying! It was so good to know that what was going on here was the norm across the country and that we would make it through this. Thank you, Cindy, for being there for us.

Our shop is 1000 square feet and we use every inch of it. Clothing is our best selling category. Customers do appreciate the same amount of a style so they do not see multiples when at work or at an event.  We have a clothing display outside the door which is changed daily. That is golden! Other points of interest about our shop:

Our helium balloons sell for $3.99.
Our buyer attends 5 gift markets a year.
We produce monthly sales reports.
We follow ADA aisles requirements.
We give a 10% discount to our gift shop volunteers.
Shipping costs are factored into our prices.

– Mary Robinson, Gift Shop Coordinator, Mayo Clinic Health System, Mankato, MN 

______________________

St. Michael-Atlanta welcomes back volunteers

CHRISTUS St. Michael Hospital-Atlanta volunteers have returned to duty after a “hiatus” because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers reopened the hospital’s gift shop and returned to other roles Monday, following a luncheon on Thursday “to thank them for their dedication and to welcome the volunteers back to service,” the hospital announced. Read more…

 

 

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Tote Sale

A tote sale worked extremely well for our shop. We bought holiday totes from Burton & Burton for $1.66 each, priced them at $4.99 which is a 66.73% mark-up. The promotion is, buy a tote at $4.99 and anything you can get in the tote is 25% off. And our pitch is “we can make anything fit in a tote.” Sold out of the totes in two days! I do this sale two times a year and my customers/employees can’t wait for it. Thank you so much! – Kim DeBord, Marketplace Manager, Riverside Medical Center Kankakee, IL


Red-carpet welcome for volunteers at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital

The Courier / Apr 23, 2021

Hospital volunteers got their moment to shine Friday with a red-carpet welcome at UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital.

Volunteers have not worked at the hospital since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic more than a year ago.

A couple dozen staff members cheered on about 15 volunteers as they entered the building for re-orientation training Friday morning.

CLICK TO WATCH!


💮 CALENDAR 💮

GIFT MARKETS

Updated Apr 15. **Always double-check show dates for changes.RESCHEDULED for
Jun 5-9, 2021
High Point Spring Market
Apr 17-20, 2021
Jun 6-7, 2021
Denver Apparel & Accessory Market
Jun 9–12, 2021
June Atlanta Apparel
Jul 13-19, 2021
Atlanta Market (Summer)
Aug 7–10, 2021
International Home + Housewares Show, Chicago, IL
Aug 8-11, 2021
NY NOW Market (Summer) Jacob Javits Center, NY
RESCHEDULED for
Aug 22-26, 2021
Las Vegas Market (Summer)
Jul 25-29, 2021
Aug 24-27, 2021
Dallas Apparel & Accessories Market (Summer)
Sep 22-24, 2021
Dallas Total Home & Gift Market
Oct 5-6, 2021
Seattle Mart Fall Buying Event
Oct 13-15, 2021
October Atlanta Apparel Market
Oct 26-28, 2021
Atlanta Fall Cash & Carry
Oct 26-29, 2021
Dallas Apparel & Accessories Market
Nov 1-3, 2021
Ocean City Resort Gift Expo, Ocean City, MD
Dec 5-8, 2021
Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show, Myrtle Beach, SC
Visit Gift Shop Mag Trade Show Calendar or Smart Retailer TradeShow Calendar for smaller local/regional shows.

Customer Satisfaction Survey
Click image to download

Free Template: Customer Satisfaction Survey

Customer surveys measure customer satisfaction!

Hospital employees are your primary customer. Do you ever wonder what they really think about your shop?

Customer Satisfaction Survey
FREE DOWNLOAD

Attention should be given to the categories that are rated ‘fair’. This indicates a number of people are not getting their needs met. If customer service ratings are fair to low it is important to focus on all cashiers (volunteer and paid) and work to improve their customer service delivery through an aggressive cashier training program. For every customer who complains, 20 don’t!

Be sure to communicate the reasons for the survey and the value the is expected from reviewing the results. Employees may be leery of taking the survey due to privacy concerns about who receives the information they provide. Keep the survey short and simple, with space for employees to write responses. A survey should not have lots of questions and take hours to answer—the response rate will be low, and the information collected will not add extensive value to the organization.

Keep the survey open long enough so that all employees have the opportunity to complete it, and send reminders to them to do so. Communicate the results of the survey transparently and honestly, regardless of how positive or negative the feedback might be. Provide action items and strategy based on the survey responses. You have an obligation to provide timely results.


Q. Scrub hat vendor?

Q. I am trying to find a vendor that sells scrub hats. Can you please ask the other gift shop managers in your next newsletter. Thank you! – Debbie Collins, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI 4/19/21

Who is your favorite scrub hat vendor?

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APRIL 2021 NEWSLETTER: ISSUE #616
Check out last month’s articles, surveys, and discussions.

  • Creating an online store | Part 1: Value, considerations, consumer demand
  • Exemplary online shops
  • Eliminating barriers to sale
  • Is an online store worth it?
  • Capturing “shop local” sales online
  • Managers share their pros and cons

  • The art of simple displays
  • Best-selling post-pandemic items
  • Online fundraisers
  • Readers recommendations on background music
  • Ongoing impact of COVID-19
  • Solutions to old inventory taking up space
  • Calendar: Gift Markets and Regional Conferences

DISCUSSION


ONLINE STORE

Cindy, this is absolutely the best newsletter that you have published. I will use as a reference over and over. We too realized that we were fortunate to have an online shop. We continue to update it as part of our hospital website. The big website will be new and fresher soon. We have been waiting a long time for this. Our on line business continues to grow even as we have opened our gift shop. We will send in our good news for you to publish. Have a great weekend – Kathryn, Carousel Gift Shop, Driscoll Childrens Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX. 191 bed. 4/19/21

Congratulations on launching your online shop. It is terrific. The landing page image with the teddy bear is really effective. Did you set up and launch it yourself? What software are you using? Several managers are wondering how to coordinate online with in-shop inventory. Are you having the same issue? – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

Our gift shop is part of the hospital website. We are continuing to upgrade our part, as well as, the hospital having a new site. We do struggle with the inventory—as we are on Arba systems. We continue to keep up with inventory the old fashioned way, counting each week. We do keep the inventory separate from the shop back stock. Hope this part helps. – Kathryn, Carousel Gift Shop, Driscoll Childrens Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX. 191 bed. 4/19/21

We do not have a web site but will be building one this summer. My question is, I do not want to offer delivery beyond our campus (no shipping). Anyone had success doing this? – Kevin Shaw, Methodist Hospital Gift Shop, St Louis Park, MN. 4/16/21

Yes! Our sole purpose of an online store is for Patient Delivery Only and our opening welcome message on the site reads: Through this site, you may order gifts for delivery to patients staying at our hospitals”. We advertise “pre made bundles” to simplify options. We have a binder kept at the register that lists all of our online gift bundles and what items are needed to fulfill the order so that all staff members can work on gift building. We recently added phone chargers as an option online as we get a lot of phone calls from customers looking to send a charger to a patient. Well now they can order that charger online as an “add-on” item!
For inventory purposes, we ring up each item at the point of sale and use “eHit” as our mode of tender; it’s an arbitrary tender that has its own line on our reports so that these sales are not getting mixed into credit card or cash sales. – Meggen Heuss, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI. 500 bed. 4/21/21

We do not yet have an online store however, this information is quite timely in that I am just beginning to explore one. I look forward to the next parts of the series as I am sure there are so many parts and pieces to consider. Without question, I believe it would be worth it, but getting it up and running and having manpower to keeping it going may prove to be more difficult. The shipping pieces is something that really worries me… Thank you all for your time to compile this information, it is appreciated. – Jamie Lee Hernandez 4/16/21

Remember, you don’t have to offer shipping. You can limit your fulfillment options to only those you feel are feasible: Patient Room Delivery, Office Delivery, In Store Pickup and, Lobby Pickup, Curbside Pickup. Phase in additional options, like shipping, later on when ready or not at all. We’ll discuss fulfillment methods in Part III. – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

I am so interested to hear what others are doing, the pro’s and the con’s to having an online store. Who are you targeting? What merchandise will you sell? Where will the merchandise be stored? Delivery, mail out, curbside pick up etc. Who will manage it? Who will manage it when you are on vacation, nights and weekends etc. – Jamie Lee Hernandez 3/18/21

I’m not 100% sure so maybe Cindy could help us, but someone told me that if you are not for profit that you have to be very careful with online shopping because it could forfeit your nonprofit status. Cindy, can you help? Is this true? – Ali McCrary, Good Samaritan, Vincennes, IN. 232 beds. 2/16/21

FROM CINDY
It is a myth that 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations can‘t make a profit. Most hospitals and their subsequent gift shops are for profit. They charge sales tax and operate as a business. The shops then donate all their profits to the hospital for patient benefit and equipment. Look for our upcoming article on how to start an online store. We’ve found some terrific online gift shops and currently interviewing their managers to share with our readers. In the meantime, here is a helpful article on launching an on-line store Overcome Common Problems Launching a Hospital Gift Store Website  2/17/21

We are a volunteer only hospital gift shop. No visitors in almost a year. We we closed for 7 months and now are only open in the afternoons. We’ve been having a 30% off sale and the store is still full! An online shop would be great but it would fall on one person to create it and manage and would be a full time job.  – Martha Burke, Rome Hospital, Rome, NY. 130 beds. 2/9/21


COVID IMPACT

Our store is approximately 1200 sq. ft. and due to social distancing, we have had to limit our customers in the store to 15. Nearly everyone has been patient while browsing and keeping their distance. We cannot have sales that would create swarms of shoppers, but we are missing the revenue. How can we promote the store and keep a safe environment? Has anyone else tackled this problem successfully? What was your answer? – Luanne Crosby, Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester, NY. 800 beds. 3/16/21

My shop has been open limited hours since March of 2020. In spite of that, I have found some success in featuring local vendors – smaller businesses that make the product in the city where my shop is or in the State. People really like being able to shop/support local. I have identified these vendors based off staff recommendations. – Christina Blaskie, Parkview LaGrange Hospital, Kendallville. 22 beds. 3/16/21

Cindy, we have been locked out of our Gift Shop since March 3, 2020. New merchandise sitting in stockroom with no promise of opening any time soon. Most volunteers have become discouraged and not interested in returning. – Vivian Metler, Charlevoix, MI. 40 beds. 1/21/21

Vivian, Thank you for sharing. So sorry to hear your shop is still closed. So many are experiencing the same as you. Or, even worse, a few shops have closed for good. This is so disheartening. – Cindy

This is Diana from Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital Gift Shop. We have been closed since March 2020! – Diana LaRose, Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital, Ste. Genevieve, MO. 53 beds. 2/17/21

Diana, sorry to hear your gift shop is still closed. It must be difficult. Early results from the poll show the majority of shops are “Open, reduced hours”. We hope you can reopen with reduced hours or, even fully reopen, soon! – Cindy


OLD INVENTORY & SPACE

Q. What do you do with old inventory that is taking up space?

We host an annual clearance sale as well. Our store room is in the basement of the hospital so we have a $1-5 cart we put outside the door to move items as well. – Ginger Taylor, Cox Medical Center, Springfield, MO.  2/20/21

I manage a small hospital gift shop, and like everyone else, have “odds & ends” left over after each season. I create a “potluck” or themed basket, make it attractive and colorful. I use pretty paper and ribbons, so it’s seen as a “prize”, and raffle it off for $1 a ticket. Everyone sees it as a chance to get items to use later for gifts, or get things they just didn’t pick up for themselves. I take a picture, email it to all the departments, and watch those $1 tickets fly out the door! More times than not I not only recoup the costs of the items, but make a profit! The winner gets their picture taken with their prize, and is in the next email. It’s productive and great fun! – Susan Ingram, Gift Shop Coordinator, Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital, Phenix City, AL. 2/17/21

Thank you for this idea! – Holly Verbos, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey. 546 beds

A clearance sale or special of some sort. Maybe themed by a coming holiday or special day like a 25% off sale on the 25th day of the month. – Peter Waugh 2/17/21

If you have room to store it such as winter items, bring it back out in November and have a big sale. But only keep items from previous season. If you don’t have room to do this sell it drastically reduced for 6 weeks and donate what didn’t sell. We use Facebook and advertise our sales with pictures. – Debbie 2/16/21

I mark inventory that’s not moving down a couple of times and then leftovers are put in my annual “sidewalk” sale. I set up a conference room every September and mark these items to move. Employees look forward to this sale every year. I rarely have anything left. – Diane Honsberger 2/16/21

Very good solution, Diane! – Cindy

First, I get down to a 20, 30, 40, 50 dollar rack and if it still does not go, I donate it! – CC Cree. 2/16/21

On 50% off, do buy one get one. Makes 2 leave instead of 1. – Tricia Rochman, Pink Geranium Gift Shop, Carbondale. 65 beds. 2/16/21

Tricia, I agree with you 100%! – Cindy

We have a small clearance sale area in the back corner of our gift shop. Items are priced 30-70% off. The longer they sit, the deeper the discount. We usually donate the non selling items, but this year we held a $1.00 Sale. We put all items that we were planning donating on cart and sold each for $1.00. It was a great success and no one had to haul any boxes out to be donated! – B. Putnam, Coldwater, MI 2/16/21

Love the idea of a $1 sale! We always dread clearance items that still don’t sell and having to haul them to a donation station! It’s a win-win! – Staci, Methodist Texsan Hospital, San Antonio, TX. 200 beds 2/16/21

Read Cindy’s extended response in last month’s newsletter.


SHOPPING BAGS

Q. What vendors do others use for bags for customer purchases? We love having the “handled” bags, but feel the price per unit is eating away at our profits! I welcome any and all suggestions.  Thank you! – Darlene Brooks, Adventist Health 2/13/21

Nashville Wraps and S. Walter Packaging  – Gale Cialeo 2/18/21


PROMOTIONS



SPONSOR

BRAVEHOODS
More than just a hoodie…

These inspirational shirts make great gifts for anyone needing a smile. For each shirt sold, one is donated to a kiddo fighting cancer. Sizing: 6 mo – 4XL

Featured in Gift Shop and Wired Magazines

www.bravehoods.org
allison@bravehoods.org

My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


SPONSOR

MY GARDEN OF FLOWERS
Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

This award-winning beautifully illustrated book, My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, by Dr. Manjeet Kaur is perfect for the hospital gift shop!

This invaluable resource for worried families gives parents knowledge and reassurance that their critically ill infants will typically grow to adulthood and lead normal, healthy lives.